Report suggests number of sheep and calves in the UK must halve to combat climate change

Read Time:   |  15th November 2018

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A new report has suggested that in order to combat climate change, the number of sheep and cattle in the UK should be reduced by between a fifth and a half.

sheep and cattle must halve in uk

According to the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the number of farmed sheep and cattle in the UK must be reduced dramatically in order to fight climate change as beef and lamb are the biggest contributors of farm greenhouse gases.

The CCC claims a 20-50% reduction in beef and lamb pasture could potentially free up 3-7m hectares of grassland from the current 12m hectares in the UK, which could instead be used to grow forests and biofuels that would help to soak up the excess CO2 produced by farmed animals. The farm union NFU said it would support this move as it is advocating for more diverse land use.


However, whilst the NFU is keen to promote more diverse land use, they are not as supportive of the NHS Eatwell guidelines on healthy eating which proposes that consumers reduce their consumption of beef by 89%, 63% for lamb and 20% for dairy products.

According to BBC News, the CCC have deliberately taken a more conservative position than the NHS with their suggestion to reduce the number of sheep and cattle in the UK in order to minimise confrontation with the farmers’ union (NFU).

Speaking to BBC News, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Chris Stark stated: “Climate change is going to change the way the UK looks – and we also have to alter the way we use land so we don’t make climate change worse.

“Brexit offers the government the opportunity to introduce fundamentally new policies that will reward farmers for producing less greenhouse gases and for capturing carbon emissions.”


However, environmentalists believe the recommendations from the CCC do not go far enough to address the serious problems facing the UK.

Speaking to BBC News, environmental campaigner George Monbiot said: “This is a timid and inadequate report. Roughly four million hectares of uplands is used for sheep, yet sheep account for just 1.2% of our diet.

“Allowing trees to return to a significant portion on this land has a far greater potential for carbon reduction than the puny measures proposed in this report.”

Source: BBC News

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